The Habs started the game out with more jump than the Canes and the home team had trouble keeping up with the high speed of their opponents. Cam Ward came up big in the first period while both teams battled to a scoreless tie, even though the visitors held an 11-5 shots on goal advantage.
Paul Maurice then went into full scale line change mode as Jeff Skinner was taken off the first line and replaced with LaRose. After the game, Maurice said that LaRose hadn't scored in several games and the coach felt that he had some extra jump.
At 15:17 in the second, Erik Cole made a nice play and whacked in his own rebound in front of Carey Price to give the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead. But just nine seconds later, Cole boarded Jaroslav Spacek and was given a five minute major.
The Habs took full advantage of the call and scored two goals during the ensuing powerplay. Those goals turned out to be the difference in the game.
Coach Maurice blamed the defenseman after the contest and said that he knew Cole was coming and turned his face into the boards before the hit.
"It's like arresting a telephone pole after a drunk driver hits it," said Maurice. "He sure recovered well and picked up an assist on the second goal."
Cole took full blame for the hit in the Hurricanes dressing room. "It was a terrible play on my part," the winger said.
Eric Staal blamed the penalty kill unit. "We just have to find a way to kill that penalty," he said.
The Canes picked up their energy in the third and had several scoring chances but could not find the back of the net. Maurice stayed with the first line of Staal, Cole, and LaRose, as well as the second of Sutter, Ruutu, and Jokinen, but the other six players were switched around liberally. Jeff Skinner was even playing center at one point.
The home team was mounting more and more pressure with the game winding down, but Chad LaRose was called for tripping with 2:13 left and that killed any reasonable chance for Carolina.
Things don't get any easier as the club will face the Washington Capitals at the RBC on Sunday night after a two day Christmas break. They now find themselves even further behind in the playoff race because Boston won tonight.
Quick Stats and Thoughts:
- That was a tough call against Cole but it looked to be at least a two minute penalty, if not the five. With the league taking special notice of all hits affecting the head, getting five minutes was probably not surprising, although Spacek certainly made it look as though he was hurt much more so than it turned out. He was on the ice quarterbacking the powerplay shortly afterward, as Maurice noted.
- It was another slow start for the team but Cam Ward made several fine saves early to hold the Habs at bay. When Gomez beat him five hole though, that's probably a goal he'd like to have back. But Gomez was alone on the play. The visitors were out-shooting the Canes throughout and held a 25-14 advantage after two periods. Ward ended up making 26 saves on 29 shots.
- The Hurricanes finished with 24 shots on goal, led by Cole with four. Staal admitted that he had trouble getting his legs going until the third. It showed, as he failed to register a single shot on goal in the first two periods.
- It was a bit surprising to see the Carolina coach totally abandon his regular lines after one period. Jeff Skinner was moved down the bench and saw less and less ice time as the game progressed, (although he did get over six minutes in the third period after only getting two minutes and change in the second). It will be interesting to see what the boss comes up with on Sunday, but the move on Thursday almost seemed like an act of desperation.
- According to the scoresheet, the Hurricanes outhit the Habs 32 to 19, but it didn't seem like that big of a disparity. Tuomo Ruutu and Troy Bodie led the way with four hits each.
- The Canes had a total of 11 giveaways led by Tim Gleason and Jay Harrison who had three each.
- Brandon Sutter chalked up a team high four blocked shots.
- The team won 47% of their faceoffs, which is higher than their season average. Staal won 39%, Sutter 56%, Carter 100%, Dwyer 43% and Skinner 33%.
- There was a good crowd of 16,981 and they got loud at times, especially in the third when Carolina drew a penalty and went on the man advantage.